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Jamari Traylor’s story, and why he’s so easy to root for

Jun 11, 2013, 2:17 PM EDT

Jamari Traylor, Derrick Nix, Denzel Valentine AP

If there is anyone that you should be rooting for in college hoops, regardless of where your fan allegiance lies, it’s Kansas forward Jamari Traylor.

His story has been told multiple times. To make a long story short (even though you should take the time to read one, or both of those links), Traylor found out that his father got a life sentence for cocaine trafficking when he was a freshman in high school. It sent him on a downward spiral that, eventually, got him kicked out of his mom’s house and forced him into homelessness for about a year. 

If you think you’ve experienced a cold, Chicago winter, imagine spending it sleeping in the back of a rusted out Buick. It got to the point that Traylor was going to school simply so he would have something to eat. With the help of a local high school coach, Traylor was able to pull himself off of the streets and, eventually, to IMG Academy, which led him to Lawrence, KS.

It hasn’t been the easiest two years for Traylor at Kansas, as he had to redshirt his freshman year because he was academically ineligible and spent much of last season glued to the bench. 

But that’s a breeze compared to what Traylor’s already been through in his life. He’s appreciative of his opportunity, enough so that he broke down in tears as he was introduced to a crowd of kids at a Kansas basketball camp this week.

“That’s coach Self. He knows me. He’s proud of me. It’s good for him to share that with the kids, so I understand,” Traylor told’s Gary Bedore. “Sometimes I just get emotional in talking about it. It’s crazy. Little kids look up to me. My life can inspire other people, so it’s a little touching to me.”

Last week, we took a look at the Kansas program and how they have become so successful at developing players at the college level. Self should expect nothing less from Traylor, who is a terrific athlete that has a high-level motor and doesn’t have an issue with working hard to improve. 

He may make the NBA one day, and he may not. But the bottom line is that he is an inspiration, an example that even those in the worst situations can make it out.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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